Ald. John Pope fires aide he hired after sex harassment deal

SHARE Ald. John Pope fires aide he hired after sex harassment deal

Thomas J. Sadzak is out of a job with the city of Chicago — again — as the result of allegations leveled by a city worker who won a $99,000 settlement from City Hall after accusing Sadzak of sexually harassing her and threatening to rape her when she complained about him.

Sadzak, 48, was fired Friday from his job as a $57,048-a-year staff assistant to Ald. John Pope (10th), working out of Pope’s ward office in the city’s East Side neighborhood.

The firing followed a report Tuesday in the Chicago Sun-Times detailing the case against Sadzak and reporting that Pope had put Sadzak back on the city payroll even though he’d been placed on the city’s “do not hire” list.

“Upon learning the details of the case, I’ve taken the appropriate action to terminate Thomas Sadzak from my office,” Pope said in a written statement. “The allegations against Mr. Sadzak are completely unacceptable, and I will not tolerate such behavior in the 10th Ward office.”

Nine years ago, Sadzak was facing firing over the harassment allegations when he quit his job with the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation.

Harriette B. McPherson, the Streets and San laborer who said Sadzak harassed and then threatened her, took the case to federal court, suing the city, which paid her $99,000 on Aug. 22, 2008, to settle.

Sadzak was back at work for the city three months later, though, hired by Pope, initially as a legislative aide, despite having been placed on the “do not hire” list after his “resignation in lieu of discharge.”

For the Sun-Times story Tuesday, Pope had declined to say why he hired Sadzak, what duties he performed and whether he had read what McPherson accused him of doing.

“Thanks, but no comment,” Pope said then.

But Friday a political consultant for Pope issued a statement saying: “Today, Ald. John Pope terminated Thomas Sadzak effective immediately from his job with the city of Chicago, 10th Ward office” and citing his comments about taking action “upon learning the details of the case.”

Sadzak, then 31, first went to work for the city on May 29, 1997, as a $9.21-an-hour sanitation laborer.

He landed the job with the sponsorship of Al Sanchez, a 10th Ward powerhouse and future Streets and San commissioner, according to a “clout list” that came out during the corruption trial of former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s patronage director Robert Sorich. Sanchez ended up serving 2 1/2 years in prison for his part in rigged hiring at City Hall under Daley.

Three years after Sadzak started working for Streets and San, McPherson came to work for the city, assigned to a crew Sadzak ran in the 10th Ward, according to court records.

In her lawsuit, McPherson accused Sadzak of repeatedly sexually harassing her over the next five years and said Streets and San supervisors ignored her complaints.

In a June 2008 order refusing to dismiss the case, U.S. District Judge Blanche Manning wrote: “It is undisputed that beginning in June of 2000, Sadzak made sexual remarks about McPherson’s body, including her breasts, in the presence of hand laborer Nina Booker.

“He also asked McPherson to let him touch her breasts in the presence of hand laborer Kenya Woods, passed McPherson notes titled ‘to-do list’ that contained lewd drawings, and made obscene comments to McPherson,” the judge wrote. “In addition, Booker and Woods saw Sadzak pull down his pants in front of McPherson on at least one occasion. On days when McPherson was not at work, Sadzak drove past McPherson’s home or repeatedly called her home phone.”

McPherson said she repeatedly complained to her bosses but that they did nothing to stop Sadzak, who she said threatened her for complaining, according to court records.

“McPherson, Booker and Woods testified that Sadzak told them that if they complained about sexual harassment, he might rape them or have them fired,” Manning wrote.

Streets and San supervisors said they were unaware of McPherson’s complaints until Jan. 27, 2005, when she filed a formal complaint with the city’s sexual harassment office.

The resulting investigation determined that Sadzak had violated the city’s sexual-harassment policy and recommended firing him.

But Sadzak resigned instead on Oct. 5, 2005, which landed him on City Hall’s “do not hire” list.

The Sun-Times reported last month that Sadzak was among four people who got new city jobs despite being on the list.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration fired two — both had been working as truck drivers for Streets and San. But the mayor’s office said it couldn’t fire the others — Sadzak and Jesse Smart Jr. — because they were working for the City Council, which for years had refused to abide by the “do not hire” list.

The City Council agreed last month that aldermen would no longer hire anyone on the list in the future. But that allowed Sadzak and Smart to remain on the city payroll.

Smart, who works for Ald. Walter Burnett (27th), landed on the list, as Sadzak had, after resigning to avoid being fired for sexual harassment.

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